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Mexico Travel - A Growing Travel Field
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
Every year, Americans are going to Mexico in ever increasing numbers. They are just beginning to realize that right next door there is a country with a distinctive culture, a rare physical beauty, a mild and exhilarating climate, and a friendly people.
I personally think that as an American travel field it has a greater future than practically any other land in the world, for it is getting the most desirable type of advertising that ever a country could have-word-of-mouth advertising from returning tourists of a type that cannot be bought. I have yet to meet anyone who went into the real Mexico, by which I mean the country south of Monterrey on the east, or of Guaymas on the west, who did not come home enthusiastic, and who did not impart some of that enthusiasm to his friends.
Because of its immense size, Mexico not only has a broad general appeal, but is capable of satisfying almost every conceivable type of interest that a tourist could have. If he likes golf, it is there. If he is interested in resort life, there are the beach resorts of Acapulco and Guaymas, or Mazatlan, or the inland resorts of Cuernavaca and Garci Crespo. If his taste runs to mountain climbing, there is the ascent of some of the finest peaks on the North American continent. The contrasts in Mexico are startling. Within the bounds of the Mexican republic, and for the most part within a short distance from Mexico City itself, there is an amazing variety of scenery and climate. A mere half-hour's drive in an automobile will take you from the sophisticated metropolis of Mexico City to a primitive setting that you could find only in Europe by going into the remote Balkans.
Mexico is always a surprise to the American tourist making his first trip. He has to revise so many of his preconceptions about this land south of the Rio Grande that his first visit there is bound to be a series of revelations.
Where the stories arose that the average Mexican was unfriendly to the gringo, I do not know. Certainly, I have never seen any evidences of it. In all my travels in Mexico, I have found everywhere a genuine courtesy and kindness and a most disarming amiability. You cannot walk along the streets of Mexico with an unlighted cigarette without having a perfect stranger walk up to you with a lighted match and offer his services with a grave and friendly bow. And this is not a superficial gestureit is a simple, straightforward expression of good will.
An incident that occurred on my last trip to Mexico convinced me of the absolute genuineness of the average Mexican's attitude toward foreigners. At that time a disturbance was going on at the University, and for a few days the building was being picketed by a group of strik ing students. As luck would have it, I was just then planning to visit the National Preparatory School, which is part of the University, to see the Orozco murals. When I arrived at the entrance, I found the door chained, bolted, and locked, and a group of pickets on guard. I smiled at the pickets and stated my mission. The pickets smiled back at me pleasantly, took a mental count among themselves, and finally agreed to a man that, of course, if I had traveled all the way to Mexico City, I should certainly see the Orozco murals. I was permitted to look at the murals in perfect quiet for two hours. When I left, the entire picket line bid me a cheery "Adios."
There is a firm belief in the United States that the Mexican of the peon class is a thoroughly lazy individual. While this may have been true at one time, when the peon had no hope and no future, it is certainly not the case today. The evidence of your own eyes will convince you that these people work, and work hard. Of course, at the noon hour you may see groups of workmen asleep on the job, but the time that is taken off is always made up at the beginning or end of the day. And when you see the Indian women going to and from market, spinning balls of maguey fiber as they walk along the road, to avoid losing even the time that would be taken up by the trip, you can hardly accuse them of being a lazy people. It is true, that, in general, the Mexican does not hurry. He does not spend all his time chasing the next appointment. The Mexican craftsman will take weeks to make a blanket, the actual weaving of which could be done in two days if he spent the entire time at his loom. But the fact that he takes weeks instead of days does not mean that he loafs the rest of the time. Quite the contrary. He raises his own sheep, shears and cards his own wool, does the chores around his little farm, and, whenever he has a moment to spare from all his other occupations, fills in his time at the loom. He is busy from dawn to dark, and the weeks that he spends weaving a blanket represent the sum total of the minutes that he can snatch from other employments.
Eventually, I suppose, the primitive life still existing in many sections of the country will disappear, and from the tourist point of view, this will be a pity. But this change is not likely to take place for some years, and in the meantime, the traveler can drink his fill of the fascinating glimpses of native life that are visible from his train window, from the seat of his automobile, or wherever he may happen to be.
A new race is being born in Mexico. History does repeat itself. Nearly nine hundred years ago, there was a conquest in England, and then for a few hundred years the Saxon was governed by the Norman until the Saxon and Norman merged, and the English race was formed. The same thing is happening in Mexico today. For some three hundred years after the conquest by Cortes, the Indian was governed by the Spanish invader, but for the past hundred years, the Indian has been gradually coming into his own again. The races are blending, and from this mixture is evolving the Mexican race of today, which seems to combine the best features of the two.
Illiteracy is on the way out. More schools have been built in the past ten years than were built in the previ ous four hundred. Modern basketball is taking the place of the ball games which were played by the Mayans and the Aztecs in the courts of their temples. In architecture, literature, music, and the arts, modern Mexico is becoming world famous.
Mexico has been the scene of many political disturbances. I think it is the memory of these bad days which today magnifies a minor disturbance into a major revolution. I was in Mexico in May of 1938, during the abortive Cedillo rebellion. This was played up in the press as a real revolution and a serious revolt against the government, yet in Mexico City I could not see a sign of disturbance, and during the alleged revolution, drove twice in an automobile through the state of San Luis Potosi, which had been reported as the center of the trouble, and could not find a thing there either. There were no soldiers on the road and no evidences of heavy guarding in the towns-just the usual traffic cops riding their motorcycles up and down the Pan-American Highway.
During my various trips there I talked with many people and found that, although they were divided in their political opinions, there was a firm determination on the part of everybody, from businessman to laborer, that Mexico should remain at peace.
Mexico, of course, has many problems. The expropriation of the oil wells and of the agricultural lands has caused a great deal of adverse comment. in the press, with resulting bad advertising for the country. In Mexico, however, an attempt is being made to settle these questions peacefully.
In the meantime, the economic position of the country will be confessedly difficult, but it will not be desperate. The government is going on with its program for the betterment of conditions among the people, and this program is bound to have a good effect on the nation as a whole.
This, then, is the Mexico you will learn to know and love. Rich in charm, and abundant in attractions, it is a country that cannot but appeal to everyone.